You should be looking for rankings of US graduate schools for the program you intend taking. The most popular rankings are of US News and world report. It is worth doing MS in the schools which are in the top tier. If your aim is to just get an entry in US, probably what I am saying won’t make sense. You will be using different parameters.
The rankings give a high emphasis on amount of money spent on research and faculty to student ratio. Each school has some outstanding faculty and some particular lab, which is focusing on certain areas of research. You got to really go and check their websites to find out the work they are doing. You can sift through faculty home pages, graduate student home pages. You are more likely to get a response from a graduate student then his advisor, if you send him a mail showing interest in what he is doing. Professors are too busy to answer emails from somebody who has not even got admission in the school. They will answer your pointed questions after you have secured admission in the grad school, because by then they have seen your file and know about you.
So universities you apply to is decided by
1. Your genuine interest in particular area of research
2. Realistic self-assessment
3. Your GRE scores and undergrad academic record.
The good academic record is the only thing, which gets you admission and research funding.
If you have done your ground work properly and applied to the right
School, you should sail through this stage.
TA is an award for your excellent academic background and the schools want to lure you to get into their school by offering you TA, which very much tells you that prior teaching experience is not required. Remember they need good students as much you need to get into a good school. Full time (20 hrs per week) TA pays for your tuition and gives you enough money for your living expenses. Once you have joined the University, in about a semester, you are expected to find who you want to work with in your department to do research.
Eventually you should be working as RA. RA is much like TA, except that you are working for a professor on a funded project than working for department. The funded project now pays for your tuition and stipend. Sometimes if a professor wants you to work on a project and does not have funds, he arranges for a TA.
But basically to be a RA, there has to be a match, it is just another job.
This pretty much means, if you get TA or RA, you don’t have to care about the university’s fee structure. You will meet your expenses and may be also save.
Fee structure: living cost: other costs
If you don’t get TA and RA, you got to be prepared to show all the money they say is required. It has to be in your bank account, no matter if it makes sense or not. The actual expenses are much lower than what they quote. You can save whole lot money by staying in an apartment with other guys instead of paying through your nose to live in a dormitory.
Statement of purpose
Be honest and sincere. If you do ground work sincerely you should be able to write an exciting SOP on your own. To be able to write about your areas of interest don’t you think you should be thoroughly aware of what’s out there in the university you are applying? What kind of research is going on? What excites you? How do you think you can be part of that excitement? Is that your academic background, your aptitude or sheer interest in learning something new makes you think so? Write the first draft from your heart after you have done the research and then have it checked from a friend for the correctness of language.
Have your recommendations from your professors who can say a few specific things about you. For example somebody might still recall how you solved some problem in a totally different way or how you came up with a new design. Flowery words about your intelligence don’t take you far.
Filed under: Admissions